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Breaking the cycle: Beyond the Blue

Maj. Sharise Bijiou, 22nd Healthcare Operations Squadron family advocacy officer and director of psychological health, poses for a photo April 19, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Bijou shared her story of physical, sexual and emotional abuse to help others as part of McConnell’s Beyond the Blue initiative. Beyond the Blue focuses on taking steps to normalize the conversations that surround seeking help. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

Maj. Sharise Bijiou, 22nd Healthcare Operations Squadron family advocacy officer and director of psychological health, poses for a photo April 19, 2021, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Bijou shared her story of physical, sexual and emotional abuse to help others as part of McConnell’s Beyond the Blue initiative. Beyond the Blue focuses on taking steps to normalize the conversations that surround seeking help. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – The impact of physical, sexual and emotional abuse lasts longer than an abuser’s cold touch on the victim.

This is something Maj. Sharise M. Bijou, 22nd Healthcare Operations Squadron family advocacy officer and director of psychological health, knows all too well after suffering through years of abuse as a child, which continued until she was kicked out of her mother’s house at 15 years old, leaving her homeless.

While on her own, Bijou still tried to make the most out of her situation, but found herself jumping from couch to couch and living out of a garbage bag.

“I was able to get through [the abuse] by being open to watching people around me and noticing the good things they were doing and surrounding myself with those people,” said Bijou.

After some time living with her dad at the age of 16, Bijou discovered she was pregnant and found herself back in the presence of one of her abusers, her mother.

“I would let her words bounce off of me like rubber,” said Bijou. “Once I turned 18, I left and never went back. From that point on I was focused on raising my daughter.”

Despite being restricted from finishing high school, Bijou was still able to set herself up for success by achieving her general educational diploma and her bachelor’s degree all while raising her daughter by herself.

“The turning point for me was when I had my daughter,” said Bijou. “I was determined to not let her experience the things that I did and show her that your past doesn’t have to be who you are.”

Bijou allowed her past to fuel her in creating a better future for herself and her daughter.

“You can accomplish and be anything that you choose to,” said Bijou. “Don’t let other people tell you what you are going to become, you make that decision.”

Bijou was able to do just that by becoming a licensed clinical social worker in the U.S. Air Force.

“Being able to give my clients another voice to help them with what they are going through has been the bread and butter for me,” said Bijou. “They can heal and there is a path to help them move forward in their life.”

Bijou continues to stress the importance of mental health and resiliency by sharing her experiences through her work as a therapist, her published books and podcast. She uses these platforms to relate to others and help those that may be going through a similar situation.

“I would tell my younger self that you are not what happened to you,” said Bijou. “You are so much better than that and I really wouldn’t change anything that I went through because it has made me into who I am today.”

Airmen can access a variety of resources including military one source, the Sexual Assault Hotline at 759-HELP or the mental health clinic at the 22nd Medical Group.

“People go to the gym and workout as preventative measures for physical health, but we need to do the same for our mental health,” said Bijou. “Having someone you can talk to is also a preventative measure, it helps you when you’re stressed, lost someone or even just need support.”

McConnell’s Beyond the Blue initiative takes steps to normalize help-seeking behaviors. These stories communicate struggles and create conversations that go below the surface. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts contact the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, then press 1, or access the online chat by texting 838255.